The vibrant Norwegian debut feature Reprise is one of those rare films about writers where form matches content, with fresh insights about the literary world coming via a complex, liberating series of flashbacks, ellipses, and other bold flourishes. Owing much to the French New Wave, especially the oft-referenced Jules And Jim, it feels like a young person's movie, connecting deeply to the fluttering thought processes of two first-time novelists and best friends whose lives endure dramatic, crisscrossing twists of fate. Though it can be hard at times to keep up with the restless, scatterbrained style of writer-director Joachim Trier, it's best just to allow the movie's freewheeling energy to take over and explore its subject from a multitude of angles. There will be time to sort out the film's events once it's over.
The almost interchangeably handsome Espen Klouman-Høiner and Anders Danielsen Lie star as best friends who harbored literary ambitions from an early age, when they worshipped reclusive prize-winning novelist Sigmund Saeverud. In perfect step, Klouman-Høiner and Lie drop their finished books in the mailbox at the same time, taking the first step on the road to presumed authorial stardom. But things don't work out quite as planned: Lie's book gets accepted for publication and he's quickly celebrated as a major new young author, but all the attention and an unhealthy romantic obsession over an editor (Viktoria Winge) lead to a nervous breakdown. Meanwhile, Klouman-Høiner weathers a series of rejections until he finally breaks through on his own, though success comes with another set of consequences for him.
Reprise tracks the ever-changing balance of their friendship as developments lead one to greater recognition and/or happiness than the other, only to have their trajectories shift. Throughout it all, Klouman-Høiner and Lie have a delicate, touching bond that's tested on many occasions, and brings them separately to the brink of madness and despair. The film mirrors their extreme volatility, but it never wallows in the low moments; instead, it feels alive and engaged at every moment, which helps compensate for some of the herky-jerky storytelling. Like many debut features, Reprise is a foremost a statement of purpose, and in that respect, at least, Trier shows limitless promise.